By Pelin Munis, Ph.D., CEO, RestoringVision
It’s been an exciting month as we continue to celebrate RestoringVision’s 20th anniversary and forge the path to solving the global vision crisis.
As our world continues to face many challenges and the heartbreak of another war and humanitarian crisis, this time in Israel and Gaza, our thoughts and prayers for global peace remain. We also continue to remain focused on where we can be of service and contribution to making the world a better place and serving the most vulnerable and underserved. Our focus remains steadfast on helping create equitable access to vision services and eyeglasses for people in need worldwide, from those navigating conflict and crisis to those navigating toward sustained livelihoods and pathways out of poverty. Translating empathy into action is in our DNA. Continuing that legacy of kindness makes a difference in the lives of those we touch along the way in our efforts to achieve our vision of a world where everyone who needs glasses has them.
I am filled with hope when I think of the many people who gathered just a month ago in New York at the 78th United Nations General Assembly to discuss and advance progress on achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals. For the first time in our organization’s history and as a member of the UN Friends of Vision Secretariat, I was at the table for a High-Level Breakfast, The Value of Vision, where world leaders gathered to discuss eye health as a fundamental global economic, social, and development issue, one with the potential to significantly boost momentum towards the achievement of the SDGs. The discussions were informed by some of the latest research in the field, and by voices of those colleagues working in-country, to expand eye health. It was inspiring and well received by Member States and Representatives, as the Friends of Vision continue our call for a Special Envoy on Vision.
Also during the UNGA, a high-level meeting on Universal Health Coverage (UHC) took place and provided countries and stakeholders an opportunity to reinvigorate progress towards delivering health for all. In an exciting development, as a result, world leaders recommitted to achieving UHC by 2030 with the adoption of a new political declaration that more notably includes eye health – a major policy win for our sector. The language on eye health has considerably strengthened since 2019 as the revised declaration indicates universal acknowledgement of eye health as a major global challenge critical to universal health care efforts. The text in the declaration now includes:
Acknowledge that despite major health gains over the past decades, there has not been enough progress in implementing measures to address the health needs of all, in part due to the disruption of essential health services during the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that: (d) Globally, at least 2.2 billion people have a near or distance vision impairment, at least 1 billion of which could have been prevented or have yet to be addressed, with 90 per cent of those with unaddressed vision impairment or blindness living in low- and middle-income countries;
Strengthen efforts to address the specific physical and mental health needs of all people as part of universal health coverage, building on commitments made in 2019, by advancing comprehensive approaches and integrated service delivery and striving to ensure that challenges are addressed and the achievements are sustained and expanded, including for: (c) eye health conditions, hearing loss, musculoskeletal conditions, oral health, and rare diseases;
Looking ahead, our engagement as a UN Friends of Vision Secretariat member continues as we move forward in advocating for a UN Special Envoy on Vision and additionally as we advocate for a new UN Resolution on Eye Health to advance eye health services for all, no matter their income or location. RestoringVision also continues to engage with the World Health Organization in deeper ways, as we had our first meeting with the WHO Vision and Eye Care Programme leadership one on one last month and continue to support the forward movement of WHO SPECS 2030 Initiative.
By advancing vision on the global agenda, we also create more opportunities to bring our vision programs to new organizations and platforms. I’m thrilled to share that this month and on our 20th Anniversary, RestoringVision signed a new partnership agreement with the Africa Christian Health Associations Platform (ACHAP) to bring our vision programs to faith-based health systems throughout Africa. Our ACHAP partnership will launch with three pilot programs in Kenya, Sierra Leone, and Zambia to start and with the goal of expanding to 32 countries in Africa where ACHAP members operate. These faith-based health systems account for 40% of healthcare in Africa and are a trusted resource for hundreds of millions of people. As we launch this partnership, we also welcome Simon Ssentongo, our new ACHAP-RestoringVision Programme Coordinator.
Additionally, the exciting momentum continues with a new strategic funding partnership with the Livelihood Impact Fund and grants to RestoringVision that include a $400,000 grant from the Livelihood Impact Fund and a $100,000 grant from the Weissman Family Foundation, for which we are incredibly grateful.
In addition, we are thrilled to announce a NEW customer giving campaign at the point of sale, now happening with our new corporate philanthropic partners at OPR Eyewear and MAMAEYEWEAR, based in New York City.
We celebrate two decades of progress and the important global momentum that is happening now around eye health because we know that there are 826 million people globally who are waiting for their chance to see clearly again who still need access to the reading glasses that they need to solve their sight loss.
We won’t stop until everyone can see clearly, and we thank you for your partnership in this work for the last 20 years – and the years to come.